The Iskander is a short-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile system. Development began in the Soviet Union during the early 1970’s as replacement for the ‘Scud B’. Development of the Iskander was accelerated when the OTR-23 was banned by the 1987 INF treaty, resulting in a lack of a modern theater missile system. The Iskander has earned the nickname of the ‘Son of Scud’, likely due to both its capabilities and status as an export weapon.
The Iskander actually has two variants, the ‘Tender’ or ‘Iskander-M’ for the Russian Federation military and the ‘Iskander-E’ version for export. The Iskander is 7.3 m long, 0.92 m in diameter, and has a launch weight of 3,800 to 4,020 kg. The Tender has a range of 400 km and a payload of approximately 700 kg. The Iskander-E has a reduced range of 280 km, and payload of about 480 kg. Both systems use a single separating warhead equipped with a terminal guidance system, though the accuracy of the missile depends upon which system is used. An inertial guidance system would probably give an accuracy of 200 m CEP while inertial coupled with a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) or equivalent system would provide about 50 m CEP. The use of the inertial navigation, GPS, and active radar or electro-optical sensors provides an accuracy of 10 to 30 m CEP. Its warheads can be equipped with high explosives (HE), submunitions, fuel-air explosives or a HE penetrator. During the terminal phase, the missile is capable of making maneuvers of 30 g and can release decoys, making it extremely difficult for theater missile defenses to intercept the missiles.
The Iskander is a tactical missile system designed to be used in theater level conflicts. It is a strike system developed to attack key military and support units. It was designed as a replacement for the OTR-23 which exceeded the 500 km Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty restriction on range. The export version was placed under the more rigorous 300 km restriction of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The missile lacks the range and payload to attack strategic targets, but the accuracy and variety of warhead types make it an extremely flexible battlefield system. It was designed to be able to destroy both stationary and moving targets, specifically SAM sites, short-range missile launchers, airfields, ports, command and communication centers, factories and hardened defensive targets.
The TEL vehicle carries two missiles and is armored with a plated sliding roof for the protection of the missile and its three operators. The missiles are resistant to the effects of outside temperatures (from -50° to +50° C), as well as offering Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) protection, enabling the missile to be fired in almost any environment. It is amphibious and can travel at 70 km/h (43 mph) and does not require refueling for 1,100 km (684 miles). Each TEL vehicle contains all the requirements to operate completely independently. Reload vehicles, each carrying two missiles and a crane, enable prolonged battlefield operations.
The Iskander entered development in the early 1970s as a replacement for the ‘Scud B’ system. Following the withdrawal of the OTR-23 missile in 1987, the development of the Iskander began in earnest. The first flight test of the Iskander took place in Oct 1995 and was scheduled for 1998-1999 production. Funding limitations delayed the final test program; however, by 2003 it was reported that final testing was complete, though it was not clear that the missile had yet been ordered for military service. 13 flight tests were completed by August of 2004. The latest flight test occurred in October 2011. It is reported that the Russian Army received its first Iskander M missiles and by 2011 that there were 75 operational missiles on 30 TEL. It was also reported that Iskander missiles were used by the Russian Army against Georgia in August of 2008.
The export version of the Iskander was first displayed in 1999 and it was reported that the UAE was a potential buyer, though the possibility of sale has not been confirmed. In March of 2001, it was reported that Iran was potentially negotiating a purchase. Syria was reported as a potential buyer in 2005. Russian officials have denied the reports regarding Iran and Syria. In 2007 a report suggested that exports to Belarus might begin in 2009 or 2010. 1
Updated October 17, 2012
- Lennox, Duncan. “Iskander (SS-26 ‘Stone’/9M720/9M723 Tender).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive weapons). September 27, 2012. (accessed October 12, 2012). ↩